Solitude and loneliness—what’s the difference? People confuse the two very often. I myself thought that solitude was a synonym for loneliness when in fact, it is entirely different. Loneliness expresses pain; solitude expresses joy. Having time in the day to disappear from everyone, whether physically alone or spiritually, makes me feel more at peace with myself and the world. Being an introvert, I cannot spend too much time around other people, or my energy level decreases with each passing minute.
To fully recharge, I surround myself with nothing but quiet. The quiet sounds of nature, of course. During my school’s overnight trip to Mayhew, I sat near the water away from everyone, and I would see the lake and beyond, listen to the small waves crash, and feel the breeze against my face. You cannot exactly call that a perfect place to be alone since everyone can see the lake and come right up to it. But the moments where it was just the lake and me made the day even better.
Throughout my life, I never had a “secret place.” My apartment was too small, and I wasn’t allowed to walk alone to the park, which was right behind us. The only place I had for privacy was the bathroom, and that’s not the best place to meditate my thoughts. At school, I had no friends so I sat by myself at the end of the table and read whatever book I had on me. Those books became my friends and my escape from reality. Whenever I was angry or upset, I always opened up my favorite book and read it until I felt better. And every time I turned the page, I contemplated the events that occured before I read, asking myself why everything went wrong.
Some people have a secret place they go to when they want to be alone. I don't have a physical secret place: it’s mental. My body stays where it is, but my mind wanders into the world which I created. And in my world, I sit under a swaying weeping willow on top of a hill, with flowers in my hair, wearing a green transparent dress. My toes brush the soft tips of the grass and dig into the dirt. My only companions are the animals that surround me. And I would stay here for as long as I please, because there is no other time to be me.
This is the place where I do what I want, be who I am without anyone peeking through. This is where I dance, and sing, and do crazy things. I travel through fictional worlds. I go on adventures with Frodo Baggins and I fly dragons with the vikings. When I am incapable of something in the real world, I do it in my head. There are no limitations.
“What do you think about in your head,” my dad always asks me. I tell him the same.
“You know, the usual,” I tell him, “nothing.” This was not true. In my head, I was already transformed into a lion cub, running in the middle of a stampede, trying to get out. ‘Nothing’ is an easier thing to say without getting unnecessary comments or questions. Besides, if I know my father, he’s going to turn it into a conversation about school and my future. And I am not about to start that.
“That’s what you always say,” he said. “Whenever we go on walks, I’m always talking. This time it’s your turn. So talk.”
The path in front of us was frozen, so we cut through the low branches next to it. One of the dogs broke through the ice in its rush to reach the other side.
“Well, what am I supposed to talk about?” I asked. “I have nothing.” I had no interest in talking. I would much rather spend the time walking in silence. Talking would have ruined it, and it would be a waste when we had a whole day to do it. I made this point clear to him.
He pushed a branch upward to walk through, however he forgot that I was right behind me. I yelped as the branch swung toward me, but my arms stopped it just in time.
My dad turned. “Sorry.” I shrugged it off. We made it back to the main path. “Isn’t this why I take walks with you? To spend time with just the two of us?”
“Yeah, but what I like is you doing all the talking about good things, something that doesn’t involve me doing something academically,” I retorted. “Besides, I like walking in the silence. It’s relaxing. To get away from the house and school and all my problems.” I didn’t say the last four words. That was an exaggeration. No need to have him or my mom worrying over something that doesn’t need to be worried over. Anyway, it all gets solved in my secret world. Because, if I can’t write it down, I can visualize it, and it becomes real inside my head. I never have to worry about writer’s block.
“Yes, I know, but you have to realize that you can’t run away from that,” he said. “School is very important, and you’re lucky to have that. I didn’t have the education you have…” I suppressed a small groan as he started to drone on about the very things I did not want him to say. I allowed him nods and “yes” as I drifted off to my secret place. This time, I was flying my Toothless inspired dragon type pokemon while trying to catch the legendary Moltres.
That was the best part of having a mental secret place. I can bring it anywhere I want to, and no one will notice, especially when I go there during a conversation because I’m still participating. I’m very experienced.
A friend once said, “If [her] imagination goes away, the universe will end.” I believe that she is right. But the universe will not end. I will end. I depend on my secret place to keep me sane throughout the day. My secret place is where all my deepest desires are; it keeps me happy when I want to cause someone so much pain they have to beg me for mercy. And it gives me an opportunity to listen in on others’ conversations and steal their topics and shape them into something else…
I do write, you know.